Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Quote of the Yesterday

Fred Clarke posted this excerpt from E. B. White's essay "Here is New York" (1948) yesterday, to mark the date. It's a wonderful piece, which I've never read; in case you haven't either, Noble Reader, here it is:
The subtlest change in New York is something that people don’t speak much about but that is in everyone’s mind. The city, for the first time in its history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now: in the sound of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest edition.

All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer who might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm....

… Manhattan has been compelled to expand skyward because of the absence of any other direction in which to grow. This, more than any other thing, is responsible for its physical majesty. It is to the nation what the white church spire is to the village — the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying that the way is up.
Clarke gives a bit more of White's essay than that, but not the whole thing. Now I have to go track it down. Bother.

The other thing Clarke posted was a link to John M. Ford's marvelous poem about September 11, "110 Stories". That I had read, but it was good to read again. If you haven't read it, yesterday was a good day to do it, but so is today.

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